In addition to some of the other important documentation and decision-making that happens when you develop an estate plan, you can also dictate what you want to happen to you after you pass. In your estate planning documents, you can include what you want to be done with your body after your death and what services you’d like to have. Including what you want to be done after your death ensures that your wishes are upheld, and it helps to alleviate any undue stress on your loved ones.
Keep in mind, if you don’t perform preemptive estate planning, these decisions are left to your next of kin.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that the best way to ensure that your plans are executed the way you’d like is to plan ahead of time with both a funeral home/crematorium and an estate planning attorney. By doing this, you can make choices with what your crematorium/funeral home has available to you, and you can include this specific information in your estate plan.
First, decide what you’d like to be done with your body.
Some of your options for what to be done with your body include…
Leaving Your Body “As Is”
If you’d prefer that your body is not cremated your estate plan is a great place to make this request. In addition, you also have a few other related decisions you can plan for.
- You have the option to decide whether you’d prefer to have an open or closed casket service.
- You can determine how and where you’d like to be laid to rest. If you know that you’d prefer either a burial or space in a mausoleum, you can mention this in your plan.
- Additionally, if you’ve predetermined a specific burial space or mausoleum, you can also mention these locations in your estate plan.
Cremating Your Body
If your preference is to be cremated following your passing, then you can mention this in your estate plan. Additionally, you can make other decisions about what’s done with your ashes.
- Decide whether you want your ashes to be split multiple ways or kept all together. You may choose to split them multiple ways if you’d like more than one person to have them, or if you want to be spread in multiple locations.
- If you’d prefer that your ashes aren’t spread, then you can mention in your estate plan that you’d like your ashes to be placed in an urn that is meant to remain closed.
- If you’d prefer to have your ashes spread, you can mention that you want them to be placed in an urn that is meant to be opened to be spread.
- Whether your wish is to have your ashes spread or to remain in an urn, you can decide who you’d like to have the ashes (either to be kept with this person or spread by them).
- You can decide where you’d like your ashes to be kept or spread.
Donating Your Body
If you hope to have your body donated, then you have a lot of options as to where to donate your body. You also have some choices as to what can be done with your body after it’s been donated.
First, keep in mind that after you donate your body, often times you can still choose whether or not to be cremated or buried afterward. Sometimes, it’s still an option to have an open casket if that’s your wish. When you’re planning on donating your body, be sure to check ahead as to whether or not these options are available to you if they’re still a part of your wishes.
Next, once you’ve decided what you want to be done after your body has been donated, you can make a decision about where you’d like your body to be donated to. There are quite a few options to consider.
Donate Your Body to Science
If it’s your wish that your body is donated to science, there are numbers of ways in which you can do this. We’ve listed just a few below.
Medical Practice: You can donate your body to science for general research and education. Medical students use cadavers to study and practice on, and doctors use them to refine their skills. You can decide between these two options.
Medical Research: If you have (or you’re a relative of someone who has) a medical condition that could benefit from further research, you can donate your body to further this research.
A few examples of associations that use donated bodies for research include:
Tourette Association of America, Alzheimer’s Association, Lewy Body Dementia Association, Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, ALS Association, Department of Veteran Affairs Biorepository Brain Bank, Concussion Legacy Foundation, and National Multiple Sclerosis Society to name a few.
Body Farms: You can donate your body to a “Body Farm” where studies are performed on the ways in which bodies decompose. In this case, your body will not be returned to your loved ones.
One such place you can donate your body is the Forensic Anthropology Center at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Become an Organ Donor
The process of becoming an organ donor is done at your Department of Motor Vehicles when you get your driver’s license, or you can sign up online.
Second, ask yourself, “How do I envision my service?”
Religious or Cultural Practices
If there are specific religious and/or cultural practices you want to be performed or respected at your service, you should mention these in your estate plan.
On the other hand, if you’re not religious, and you wouldn’t want your service to be religious, you should dictate this specifically in your estate plan as well.
Would you prefer a traditional wake/funeral service, or do you think that a celebration of life is more in line with your preferences? Make sure to mention your preferences in your estate plan.
Finally, consider any other requests you’d like to make in your estate plan?
“In Lieu Of …”
Commonly, flowers are gifted to family and loved ones for someone’s services, but that may not be your wish. Instead, you may choose to dictate that you’d rather people donate to a trust or a charitable organization in lieu of flowers. This statement can be included in your obituary in order to let people know that this was your wish.
Officiants and Funeral Homes
It’s not uncommon for families to use specific funeral homes or officiants over the years. If you want to dictate exactly who you’d like to be used, your estate plan is the best place to make this clear.
Additionally, if you know which funeral home, funeral director, officiant, or even crematorium you’d like to use ahead of time; it’s always a good idea to meet with these people and share your wishes with them as well. The more clearly you can plan ahead with these people, the more you can share in your estate plan, and the easier it will be to follow your wishes.
Other Personal Touches
Are there certain flowers, songs, prayers, pictures, etc. that you’d like to be included at your service? Are there certain clothes you’d like to wear when you’re being laid to rest or cremated? Are there certain items you’d like in your coffin?
The Prue Law Group, P.C has been helping clients develop estate plans for over 4 decades. To set up an appointment with one of our legal professionals to begin your planning, call (860) 423-9231.